Goan Identity at Cross-roads

What will happen to the culture, language and Goan identity in times to come? There is an urgent need to answer this question

By Tomazinho Cardozo

oa is undergoing drastic demographic changes. Majority of Goans have not realised the consequences of these changes. When Goa was liberated in 1961, Goa’s population was only six lakhs. Today this figure has more than doubled. As per the 2001 census, Goa has a population of 14.5 lakhs. More surprising is the fact that almost 40 per cent of this population consists of people from other parts of the country now settled in the state. There are some who came to Goa over 30 years ago and have make Goa their second home. These people have contributed to the development of Goa in different ways at the same time earned their livelihood. In spite of all this, many a time they are branded as ‘voile’, ‘bhaile’, ‘ghantti’ or ‘non-Goans’.

After the Liberation of Goa, the walls between Goa and the rest of India were also demolished and Goans became part and parcel of the motherland India. Liberated Goa witnessed tremendous development in all spheres - social, educational, economical and cultural. Often in the recent past, Goa has been judged as one of the best states in the country. There is no doubt that development has adverse fallouts too. One of the serious issues that cropped up in Goa was the influx of non-Goans, which still continues. Today the number of non-Goans in Goa has increased to such an extent that it poses a threat to the preservation of the social and cultural ethos of Goans. At the same time, Goans need these people. Hence it is a sort of dilemma that the Goan community faces today.

When I look at the non-Goans issue in Goa, I classify it into four different categories.

Many of them work in government and private offices and many of them have established their own businesses. They have constructed houses in Goa. Their children have been born and brought up here. In order to preserve their identity they have organised themselves into associations. Hence we have various state associations in Goa. Their aim is to promote and preserve their parent state culture among their children.

The second type constitutes of those living in Goa and engaged in construction works. These people are illiterate or semi-literate. They work mostly on daily wages. Construction of roads, bridges, buildings, etc, solely depends on these people. The so-called development of Goa, through public or private sector, cannot move ahead if these people do not contribute their services.

The third are those who help Goans in their domestic and traditional works. Domestic works like gardening, plumbing, painting, carpentry, etc, are handled mostly by them. Traditional occupations of Goans like agriculture, fishing, bakery and confectionery have also been taken over by them. Mind you this is not a complaint. In fact, there are no Goans to handle such works and, as for me, I maintain that these people are here to support us in our daily functioning.

Fourth are those who have established themselves as small vendors of flowers, fruits, vegetables and other assorted items.

One of the most perplexing aspects of our lives is that when we Goans deal with these people we do not communicate with them in Konkani, which is the mother tongue of Goans. On the contrary we converse with them in Hindi, which they are fluent in.

I remember, in the late 1960s, Goans agitated to send back government officers and other staff brought to Goa on deputation from Maharashtra by the then Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP), which was in power. United Goans Party (UGP) was in the opposition. There were hardly a few hundred staff on deputation at that time, but the agitation had to take place because Goans were apprehensive that they were being denied government jobs because of them. The agitation was successful. The then MGP government had to send back all the people. But, today there are almost five lakh non-Goans in Goa and Goans do not complain at all, leave aside organising any agitation against them. This is because the non-Goans living in Goa today do not deny Goans of their jobs. On the contrary they help Goans by doing all odd jobs that are not touched by the so called - ‘Niz Goykar’. In other words they serve the Goan community.

If this is the reality, then calling then ‘voile’, ‘bhaile’ and ‘ghantti’ does not make sense at all as they have become a part of Goan community – serving it in many ways - I think we should consider them as "New Goans". However, one important question remains unanswered. If the same political trend continues and the influx of non-Goans persists, after another ten to fifteen years, the number of non-Goans will surpass ‘Niz Goykars’. They preserve and promote their regional and linguistic culture among their children whereas we, the so called ‘Niz Goykar’, instead of making use of our mother tongue, communicate with them in their language. If so, what will happen to the culture, language and Goan identity in times to come? There is an urgent need to answer this question.